Hubris and surgery

Laying yourself on a table. In the barest of garbs. Under the harshest lights, that which reveals every wrinkle, freckle and mole. With half a dozen cloaked and masked strangers milling about, partially disrobing you while sticking and prodding. A hand which politely smothers you with oxygen, no less.

It is hard to fathom the extent of vulnerability that the surgical patient is exposed to. The trust  a surgical consent implies. The desperation that every patient and her dearest ones have to encounter, before they finally relent to fate and agree to lie upon The Table.

Modern man takes many a thing for granted. He flies across continents. Doesn’t spare a moment ruminating his safety prior to stepping onto an aircraft, which is marvel of science agreed, but is not beyond malfunction.

He agrees to let machines take over his major organ systems, and willingly allows dangerous chemicals to be injected into his bloodstream. The science, the sacrifices, the disasters that have made these things routine are rarely thought of. It is assumed that the experiments have been concluded, that the proverbial sacrificial lamb has been long offered at the alters of science and research. And therefore, he shall be fine.

The wise often claim that doubt grows with knowledge. And that is why surgery and hubris are such strange bedfellows.

One must read, process, practice and retain tremendous amounts of facts and information to become a cutter of humans. With all this knowledge, should the human scalpel wielder not be quaking in his clogs?

Some who are in the business of treating human diseases (but not “cutting”), believe The Cutters are not as learned as they are. The Cutters apparently have nothing more to do than “Monkey see, monkey do”! 

Curiously, the opposite is the norm. He may deflect questions about possibilities of complications, guffaw at queries relating to failure, patriarchally skim over technical details of the surgery and generally air a feeling of surety.

Is it an act? The haughtiness, the overbearing self- assurance.  Is it a charade for the scared, finicky and can- seek- another- opinion- anytime patients? Is it an obligatory trait of the successful pliers of this trade?

Whatever the raison d’être for the co- existence of hubris and surgery, it isn’t a pleasant circumstance. It is garish, and unbecoming of a woman or man of science. For science teaches us to believe facts but to never accept the certainty of them.

Humility is at times mistaken for lack of skill or self- assurance. It is so rare to behold in these pompous times, one forgets how elegant, gracious and pleasing it can be.

Till next time,




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